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State needs program to help teachers help...


State needs program to help teachers help kids do better

The Sun has reported that state schools superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick wants to "back off forcing students to pass a new series of tough high school examinations for graduation" unless $49 million in funding is made available ("Grasmick seeks hold on testing," March 22).

Sun readers need to know that there is more to this story.

Ms. Grasmick also supported a proposal from Towson University to launch a graduate program in world history to re-train teachers for the new tests.

This proposal has support from the University System of Maryland and from social studies directors in the city and Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.

However, the state's attorney general and the Maryland Higher Education Commission have ruled that Morgan State University can kill programs at other state universities. Morgan is using this veto power to block the Towson program.

Parents, students, and educators should support the Towson history teacher education proposal.

Maryland needs the new graduation tests -- and well-trained teachers who can prepare students to pass them.

Ronn Pineo


The writer is a professor in the department of history at Towson University.

Ruling will preserve vitality of college life

The Supreme Court deserves appreciation from those who expect the college experience to be active and challenging ("High court rules student fees don't violate free speech rights," March 23).

Colleges and universities have long collected common taxes, called fees, from students to support disparate activities, interests and groups.

The multiple messages, lifestyles, causes and conflicts that emanate from such groups are for most campuses arguably the most stimulating fuel of intellectual and social intercourse among students (as well as the source of much administrative discomfort).

The effort to seriously diminish such energy has been unanimously rejected by the court -- that's well-done and wise.

William L. Thomas Jr.

College Park

The writer is vice president for student affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Critics of pope's apology unfair to an honorable man

How can so many people look at all the good Pope John Paul II has accomplished during his papacy yet continue to be blind to his real message?

This man has brought twin messages of peace and forgiveness to so many people, so many nations. Why, then, are so many saying, "not good enough"?

How unfair to resent this gentle man and demand further apologies from him.

The pope is not required to apologize for the sins of his predecessors. Yet he has done so in the true spirit of forgiveness.

Perhaps it is we who need to abandon our "holier than thou" attitude and ask forgiveness of him.

Madonna T. DePalo

Perry Hall

Maryland can do better for its unemployed citizens

To keep the economy strong, the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates to prevent the inflation a tight labor market may cause.

This means that to keep a healthy economy some of the work force must stay unemployed.

Those on unemployment are the economy's safety valve. Yet despite budget surpluses, we provide the unemployed the barest minimum.

And, while Pennsylvania allows workers to earn up to $150 before having unemployment compensation reduced, in Maryland any earnings are taken off the top of unemployment checks.

A state as financially healthy as we are can do better for those who are, even if unwillingly, keeping the economy healthy.

J. Martin


The Sun has become too enticing to scan . . .

My lifetime daily habit of The Sun and coffee first thing in the a.m. before rushing off to a daily routine will have to end.

March 15's edition showed me I would have to give up scanning or headline-reading articles I promised myself I would save for a later time that never came.

I could no longer scan and forget such articles as "Leaders call for opening gene data," "Dolly scientists repeat feat with 5 cloned pigs," "Designer babies just genes away" "Middle ground on medicating kids," and "State's chance for safer guns,"-- all this and more in one section.

No, no, no -- this demanded a rescheduling of my life. The Sun has become just too tantalizing to scan. I have friends who eschew The Sun for theWashington Post.

Kudos to The Sun, whose reportorial excellence will soon change their schedules, too.

Mary Ellen Bur


. . . and doesn't need to leave readers filthy

Like the writer of the recent letter "Stop turning readers into ink-stained wretches," (March 18) I start the day by reading The Sun

I usually spend about two hours reading the paper and working the crossword puzzles.

Unlike the writer I do not have any problem with ink coming off the paper.

Perhaps he should get a pair of black pants and a black shirt -- and that would solve his problem.

Joseph G. Frank


This letter is in response to the views on late fees Paul Gleiberman recently expressed in The Sun ("A telling battle over late fee billing," March 18).

Senate Bill 145, which the Senate has approved, delineates the late fees merchants can charge.

Merchants depend on a steady, predictable cash flow to keep their business functioning. When customers do not pay bills on time, merchants incur additional costs -- sending delinquency notices, making collection calls and possibly borrowing money to pay their own obligations.

Those few consumers who do not pay on time increase costs for all customers.

The Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision last summer that stunned Marylanders, even the parties to the case.

It invalidated late fees in excess of the constitutional limit of one-half percent per month, or 6 percent per year.

Until June 1999, Maryland companies were charging late fees exceeding the 6 percent annual limit in good faith. The decision created a feeding frenzy of class-action lawsuits against them.

The bill protects consumers and merchants alike. It requires a 15-day grace period before a late fee may be imposed and disclosure of the fee in bold, 10-point type.

Merchants must choose between two caps at the time of contracts: a late fee of up to $10 or up to 10 percent, whichever is greater, on the amount past due for no more than three months; or a late fee not to exceed 1.5 percent a month for longer than three months. This charge is equivalent to current credit card fees.

Merchants cannot switch between the two alternatives.

Late fees spur customers to pay their bills on time and enable merchants to have a steady cash flow for the goods and services provided. The Senate bill strikes a balance between buyers and sellers.

The bill's opponents, mostly class-action lawyers who will receive windfall legal fees if this legislation is defeated, protest that this late fee legislation is unfair.

What's not fair is making good-faith customers, who pay their bills on time, shoulder the burden of delinquent payers.

Jean W. Roesser

Leonard H. Teitelbaum

The writers represent Montgomery County in the Maryland Senate.

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